Adidas Dropset Trainer Review

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It’s been quite some time since Adidas has put out a serious training shoe. Technically, there have been a couple shoes they’ve released in the past couple years unded “training”, but they were mainly running shoes in-disguise to fill the segment. I was told quite some time ago by an Adidas employee that since they owned Reebok, they moved away from training to not be cannibalistic, but since the brand sold Reebok last year, expect real training products to be coming.

Unlike their training shoes of the past couple years, the thing that stands out most about the Dropset trainer is the fact that it doesn’t use any of Adidas’ marquee midsoles. No Boost, no Bounce. While those are great for cushioning, they don’t always make for a great training shoe. Even the CrazyTrain Elite from 2017 which featured Boost and was probably the best training shoe from Adidas, still suffered from an almost muddy feeling while lifting in those shoes.

So, I guess the question at large is:

“Can Adidas come out with a trainer that can hold it’s own against the top contenders?”.

After a few weeks of testing, I can confirm – Yes, they can.

Construction

From a design standpoint, the Dropsets biggest visual cue that would lead me to believe that they’re serious training shoes are the raised sidewalls, which also sport the three stripe logo. Other than that, the shoes have a look that’s completely different than pretty much every training shoe out there at the moment. There’s nothing fancy looking about the shoe, but to be honest, I kind of like them. It gives off an almost old school vibe of a shoe that was made for serious training.

The upper mesh is some kind of ballistic nylon material with no real stretch element to it but still remains plenty flexible and breathable. It feels tough to the touch and like something you wouldn’t feel bad about going hard on. On top of that there are overlays placed in positions on top of the nylon to provide structure and aid in foot containment. Though it seems like a fairly basic design, everything works well and the shoe feels robust in construction.

At the back of the shoe you’ll find a highly aggressive heel rocker, which I’m not a huge fan of in both the way it looks and in how it can feel. I can understand having a minimal one to help for the shorter runs that would be in a typical training session, but the one on the Dropset is more rounded than you’d find on even some distance running shoes. Personally, I don’t see much of the benefit from it for running but it can affect the way I lift (but not always).

Dropset uses a dual density midsole which isn’t foreign to training shoes. Harder heel foam for stability while lifting and a softer forefoot foam for cushioning while running or bounding. If the numbers on the heel and lateral side of the shoe are an indicator of how dense they are, it would mean the forefoot is roughly 30% softer than the heel. The stack height is also deceptive at the heel because the foam at the back of the shoe is not as high as it looks, but rather cups the foot in place. While the heel is slightly higher than the forefoot since the shoes have a 6mm drop, it’s not that much higher than what you can see from the side of the shoe compared to the forefoot.

Underneath the shoe, you’ll find a full length rubber outsole with multidirectional tread pattern. At first glance, it looks like a pattern you’d find on any other training shoe nowadays, but when with further inspection, it really looks like they put some thought into the different zones for traction. The treading is more fine and aggressive surrounding the metatarsals, leading up to the big toe; presumably because those areas are where you’d want to have the most control from. It’s also worth noting that the midsole and outsole splays out further in these areas compared to the upper for a wider contact area. The heel pattern is a bit more chunky and actually bowed inwards. My assumption is that it’s designed like this to expand when pressure is being put down on it to give you a suction-cup like effect, though I could be reading into it a little much.

It also looks like there’s some kind of torsion system that runs from the heel to the midfoot. Judging by it’s placement underfoot, it could just be one long piece that runs internally from just inside the heel to midfoot, or two broken up pieces. I can’t confirm, but I will that whatever the placement is, it does add a good amount of rigidity to the heel.

All these design pieces do come at a cost, driving the weight of the Dropset’s up to a fairly heavy 13.8oz for a mens size 10.

Fit

When sizing your Dropset trainers, I’m going to recommend that you go with your normal training or running shoe size. I think a lot of people will really enjoy that these shoes fit wider than normal. While I personally don’t have a wide foot, but I do have a bunion on my right and Morton’s toe. Even with those, I almost thought that I got the wrong size because of how much space I had in the toebox.

The length of the shoes for me is spot on, giving my Morton’s toe enough to splay and not press into the front of the shoe, though it does occasionally glance the front which is how I know the length is fine. If I were to size down for width, that toe would definitely hit the front of the shoe. Luckily, the provided lacing system is customizable enough to give me the fit I need so the shoes don’t feel overly wide. The first two eyelets are bands (akin to Flywire) that run the length of both sides of the shoe so that you can really lock down the metatarsal area. As you get higher up the lacing, you get more options on eyelets to use to fit your foot’s insteps. I have a shallow instep so I had to use the eyelets further down. Setting the laces this way made a world of difference in how the shoes fit around my ankles.

Those that are planning on running custom orthotics, or just wanted more direct feel will be happy to know that the insole is removable with these shoes. The actual unit itself is nicely formed, anatomic and has a great feel without detracting from stability.

Running/Plyometric Performance

Despite the running inspired heel, the Dropset’s are not the shoes you want to be caught running more than a mile or so in, but I didn’t find them to be terrible (or bad at all) for plyometric work.

If I absolutely had to do any kind of running in these shoes, it would only be because I had a heavy barbell to pick up in between. Otherwise, I would just avoid them for running days altogether. The heel to midfoot construction is pretty stiff and makes them less than ideal for longer distance runs. Include the fact that they’re a fairly heavy shoe and you could see why they’re just not amazing to run in.

Having the heel rocker there does an okay job of making your strides feel more positive, but I personally wouldn’t do anything more than 400m at a time. If the workout called for 800m+ runs, I wouldn’t even consider the Dropset’s for that day’s workout. The only exception to this is if the workout included sprints or cutting movements. In which case, I think the flat contact outsole and sheer lateral stability would help more than the weight detracts.

On the flip side, I didn’t think that heel clunkiness made that much of a difference when doing plyometric movements. Even during 100 burpees box jump overs (barf), I didn’t notice them being too unwieldy on my feet. The response from the forefoot kept me going and I never got off balance because of how much traction the shoes have. I will say that my midfoot felt the stiffness afterwards, but after that kind of workout, it’s to be expected.

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Even though the heel isn’t very flexible, if at all, the forefoot has plenty of flex for jumping movements. It almost feels unbalanced in a way because of how jarring the transition is from midfoot to forefoot – almost no flex to really flexible. I’m not complaining though, it’s what keeps these shoes feeling a lot more agile than the weight and heel would initially make you think. That flexibility paired with the cushioned, yet responsive forefoot foam makes these suitable for just about any workout inside of the box.

Lifting Performance

Where the Dropset’s really shine, is just how great they are for lifting. You can almost overlook their running performance because when you get to that barbell, you’re going to have a great time with it. I’m not going to say the Dropset’s are the best training shoes to lift in, nor will they suit everyone’s style perfectly, but I think they’re excellent for the majority of lifts.

First things first, addressing the elephant in the room: “does the heel rocker affect lifts?”

Yes and no.

It has an optical illusion that the heel might be floating off the ground, but in actual use, your heel usually feels planted on the ground. The rocker actually protrudes a little further out compared to the end of where your heel sits inside of the shoe. I said usually because while most of the time, you won’t notice the heel design, with certain lifts, it can be an issue.

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But before getting into lift specifics, lets talk about what the stability feels like.

Dropset’s foam density at the heel is direct with almost no give at all. Power delivery is tack sharp and there’s absolutely no muddiness to the heel when you press against it. The feel around the ankle from the paneling and heel counter make you feel confidently locked into place during movements and the raised sidewalls add another element of lateral stability that almost gives it a lifter like feel. Yes, these are the things that make running in the shoe not great, but at least you really see the benefits the other way.

Cleans were the lift I thought the Dropsets excelled at most. I never felt like I was off-balance during the pull and the 6mm drop helped with the catch while not pitching me forward. At least to the point where it was hard to control, a problem that I had with Nano X1. The toespring angle is slightly raised, but I still felt like I could keep my toes down while extending past my knees.

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Snatching wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t say these are quite as good for that movement as they are cleans. Receiving the bar overhead is a little tricky because of the heel shape; you almost always default to a forward catch. Since there’s more balance involved in receiving a snatch, the need for a flat contact heel becomes greater. A heel like this won’t stop you from falling backwards and since the level of precision is higher during the snatch, it makes these shoes just a little harder to use for the movement.

I had absolutely no problem with squatting in general with the Dropset’s. Coming from a position where you can get everything set, you won’t have any issues with the heel rocking you backwards or pitching you forward. If you’re a barefoot/flat shoe squatter, you’ll definitely need to adjust, but people that normally squat in shoes will love these. Also, if you’re someone that doesn’t want to use a lifter but wants a little more stability and heel lift than a normal shoe, these are going to be one of the best options.

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For deadlifting, I’m not wild about the stack height or drop, but I don’t think it’s going to detract from most people’s deadlifts. I wouldn’t use these to try to PR a lift, but I wouldn’t worry about giving up those 6mm’s for anything under 500lbs and it’s not likely you’ll be seeing anything close to that in a WOD.
The fix is as easy as unlacing your shoes and taking them off if it bothered you.

Conclusion

Adidas was kind enough to invite me on a call to talk to the product managers of Dropset where I got to pick their brains (they picked mine too) about the shoe. (This was after I had made all my conclusions, last Thursday). The most important question (to me) that I asked was:

“Were the shoes made with Crossfit in mind, and if not, what exactly were they made to do?”

The answer was “No” and they were made to fill the void for their collegiate contracts/athletes that are training. While that was a little disappointing to hear, I wasn’t expecting them to say they were because during my time testing them, I didn’t get the feeling they were either. To me, they’re a little more reminiscent of UA Project Rock 2’s, which are great training shoes, but not great shoes to use for Crossfit.

I think that if Adidas was to tip the needle a little more towards flexibility and fix the heel, they could easily make something that would be an excellent shoe for Crossfit, but either way, I still think the Dropset trainers are 100% usable and are a great alternative for what else is out there right now. Even though I think running in them isn’t great, it’s doable and for what you back get in stability, it’s a pretty even trade-off. Plus the fit and finish of the shoes, while not fancy, are still top quality.

What’s more exciting is that Adidas is back to making actual training shoes. I don’t know how much stake they’re going to put into strength sports again, but even knowing that it’s a blip on the map to them, sounds promising.

The Good:

  • Stable for most lifts
  • Fit is excellent and customizable
  • Robust construction

The Bad:

  • Heel is pretty clunky.
  • Heavy.
  • Not rope climbable. (They told me to not even bother.)

The Ugly

  • Polarizing looks.
  • Hard to identify the purpose which will throw people off.

Get your Dropset trainers here! ($130)

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